Wednesday, March 26, 2008


For many years I have struggled with this reality. I pray some of you find redeemable principles in the prickly prose that follows. I’ve been assembling this post for weeks. As men and women of God and some as bridesmaids, we must get this right to attend properly to the bride. TM

Jesus the Good Shepherd - Part 2

This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed (Bosko) my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care (poimaino) of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed (Bosko) my sheep. John 21:14-18 (NIV)

I was exposed to a teaching on this passage several years ago. After re-reading and re-digesting it, I have reached a slightly different interpretation of the one given at that time. In this passage, Jesus uses two different words in three places to describe Peter’s commission – “Bosko,” “Poimaino,” and “Bosko” again, all translate from the original Greek script to the English “feed.” Deeper examination of this passage reveals something significant to me about that exchange. As I understand it, after reviewing concordances and commentaries, to “Bosko” is to “pasture” or allow the sheep room to graze. Said another way, to offer them a place of rest, comfort, and life, and provide a climate that allows them to prosper and be in health. The Lord is my Shepherd…

It appears that “poimaino” speaks of a more personal relationship like fathering. The shepherd will periodically exercise the discipline of husbandry and examine each sheep head-to-toe to see if there were any blemishes or wounds that needed His attention. He would
muster them and pass them through the gate and poimaino them before release back to the pasture. He would hold them in place with his staff as he combed through their coat with his “rod” to analyze their health.

This was a “comfort” to them, knowing the master would carefully (care fully) look after their needs. If wounded he would apply salve with his healing touch. If lice or other external parasites were found, he would administer what is known as backliner, or the “plunge” also known as the dip (think baptism). The shepherd will always have your back. …I have everything I need.

The pastoral heart is to father intimately (up close) and with precision. As this revelation has become clearer my heart mourns for the church at large as Jesus did for Jerusalem in Matt 23:37 …how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. In my own journey I have been exposed to preachers who are not pastors at all. Some are teachers, some are evangelists, some are apostles, and some are prophets. All are convinced they are called, but try to stuff their role into one mold.

They cannot operate effectively as a pastor to shepherd if their gifting is something else. This flies in the face of the traditional view of the traditional church. I believe this is the reason the traditional church continues to have traditional recurring problems. We have traditionally held the one-size-fits-all mentality and expect one man to be all things to all people, and do the job of what scripture teaches the five-fold ministry should be doing. Yet we are perplexed when ministers burn out, or fall from grace, or are ineffective, or even worse, spiritually abuse others. Only Jesus himself could operate effectively in all of those anointings at once. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

This is not to say these roles can’t be filled by a manifestation of grace in a time of need, or on a temporary basis, but God has gifted men to fill each of these roles. We have five fingers on a hand for a reason so if one is missing, our grasp is diminished. I love teachers, but their point of emphasis is instruction not fathering. I love prophets, but they are about revelation not relationship. I love apostles, but their focus is raising shepherds not raising sheep. I love evangelists, but they are more about bringing new sheep into the fold than caring for the ones already there. It is the pastor-shepherd’s call to care for and love on the sheep because that is what he does…He restores my soul.

Jesus warns us about the hired hand, yet the sheep herding business (see church) has gotten quite popular in the last couple of decades, even as true shepherds have become more scarce. As the population of sheep sees rapid growth, mega churches and mega marketers have replaced menial and mundane ministry. Building churches has replaced building the Kingdom of God and THE WAY-Mart super-churches have become the flavor of the day. In such a place you can find just about any Christian commodity you are looking for except a spiritual dad. “Attention Way-Mart shoppers, we have a little lamb at the service center that has been separated from its parents.” In reality, the lost-not-found room would be packed by wayward sheep looking for their fathers. Obviously Jesus has the heart for the “one” and that is why he teaches us to leave the 99 to find the wanderer. It takes intimacy to know one is missing. It takes investment to go after them. It takes involvement to intervene. He leads me in paths of Righteousness…

Let me be clear, many large churches can and do function well to meet the needs of their sheep, while many small churches still miss the mark, so this is simply an observation of trends, not a broad indictment. Jesus The GOOD Shepherd was obviously able to meet the needs of large crowds and revealed that by feeding the five thousand and the four thousand respectively. He also showed us explicitly just how that is done. (See Matthew 14:21; 15:38)

That stated, the trends still point to the church modeling today’s broken families with absent fathers. Without the pastoral presence, the body will be damaged and dysfunctional just like today’s splintered homes. It will simply act as a thermometer of society rather than a thermostat of the community. In those flocks you find disease and discord. The watchmen will readily identify cull ewes as expendable mutton. Make no mistake, in the House of God, no cull exists. We are all made in his image...for His name’s sake.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Pet 5:8) Evangelist R.W. Shambauch used to tell the story of the sheep and the lion. He said the sheep would graze and graze without a care in the world, but when the lion roared their heads would pop up. They wouldn’t look to the direction of the sound of the roar, but they would look to the Shepherd.

If the shepherd was there, they would go back to grazing with the comforting knowledge that he would protect them at all costs. However, if the shepherd was not there they would scatter and run. Today when the lion roars, the sheep have to call the church secretary and schedule a meeting. The pastor and parishioner relationship should never resemble the master and slave, or even the consultant and client, but always the familial. Yeah though I walk through The Valley of the Shadow of Death…

Instead of pastoral shepherds, many churches are full of hired hands passing through in search of their next bigger and better assignment. Worse still are the stray sheepdogs often brought in to help. They may be cute and lovable with some “herding instincts” but not necessarily plugged into the heart of the Good Shepherd or the needs of the sheep. They may have a knack for keeping the flock in formation, or even alerting to danger, but not about fathering and providing a place of life with room to graze and grow.

They didn’t enter through The Gate, but somehow crawled through the railing. They scatter flocks with their manipulation and self-centered agendas and turn local bodies into spiritual brothels by concentrating their power through a controlling spirit. Conflict and injury are often the result, and as the sheep leave, the “good riddance mentality” often ensues which has the overwhelming stench of the crap of border-collies. …I will fear no evil for You are with me.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors (shepherds), and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:12) Being a pastor is not about position but disposition. If one does not have the disposition to father, they are not a “pastor” plain and simple. Jesus has the heart to know and be known - that is the model for the pastor. Fathering from afar creates scars; as a dad, I know this to be true.

During times when I’ve been disconnected or disengaged, without exception my kids will manifest an issue of some sort. I will be of no help if I don’t visit with them and seek to know and be known. Often the solution lies within me and my own personal experiences, so offering myself up to be known by my kids gives them a sense that our struggles are common transcending the generations. Confessing my faults heals me and thee. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

Jesus paid the price of accessibility and drank the cup of inconvenience. He did this because he loved his sheep. He even paid the price for sheep he didn’t have yet so they could come into his pasture and feed on redemption and drink in life everlasting. He touched lepers. He had bosko with thieves and prostitutes. He hugged children with runny noses and messy drawers. He had poimaino with dirty disciples and he washed their grimy stinky sweaty feet. He combed through the coat of sheep and helped remove bugs and cockle-burrs.

This stands in stark contrast to some preachers who are too busy with exegesis to serve as a human Jesus to a hurting and hungry flock. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) The flock should not be a burden but a blessing, and most certainly “dear” to its shepherd. You prepare a table before me…

Leaving the ninety-nine to find the one again requires proactive deliberate steps that take us beyond our comfort zone and into the battle zone. There we may find conflict and coyotes, but we will also always find Christ – The Good Shepherd - unafraid, unashamed, and unreserved in His passion and compassion for people. He loves us without condition or prerequisite. He showed us His grace and mercy when he loved us with nails and thorns and leather straps and a heavy cross.

He deemed us worthy when He redeemed us with His blood. Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) Steve Camp had a great line in a song years ago titled Shake Me to Wake Me. In it he says, “Jesus rose from the grave; we can’t get out of bed.” Ouch! Those are my toes he’s standing on! …You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over.

If you are a minister of the gospel, I challenge you to take inventory of yourself and your sheep. How much salve have you applied to wounds lately? When your sermons become secondary to you actively serving others, then (and in my opinion only then) you have become a true pastor. If you delegate the task, you relegate your role, and until you lead from your knees, you lead no one. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10). If the revelation is you are not a pastor, stop trying to be one, and get one for the flock and operate as the other finger you are. If you don’t you may become the finger of offense. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Diary of a Queen

Phil 3:1212 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Scott and Lori Dix are our friends. Their daughter Alyssa took her journey home just a few days after her 16th birthday as the result of a car accident. Through this tragedy lives have been transformed and redeemed. I love how the Lord finds a way to bring victory in spite of loss. Scott sent this email less than a week after Alyssa's funeral. Below are the journal entries of a Queen in love with her King. She understood the journey with wisdom well beyond her years, and she pursued it with passion. What a remarkable young lady. I share these with you with Scott's blessing.



I was going thru Alyssa's room last night after everyone went to bed and found a journal where she jotted down her thoughts and prayers etc... I think this will inspire you, encourage you and just blow you away. It goes hand in hand with the comments I sent you yesterday Vicki but these are from her mouth. I pulled out some excerpts - these were a little over a year ago until about 11/28/07. Vicki, you can post these on the website as well; this is Alyssa's heart. In his love, Scott

1/10/07 - I want to thank the Lord so much for putting Christian people in my life that I can look up to.......also my dad taught youth tonight about Solomon and how magnets attract metal...our influence.....Lord please help me to have a good influence and for people to look up to me as a Godly Christian woman. Lord please use me whether it is in a different country, camp, Stop team etc... Lord help me to see your direction and will. Also, please be with my youth group that we grow into a student ministry not to be just a group. Help us to give you all the glory Lord just please give me wisdom like you gave Solomon. Lord prepare me for what I will face tomorrow and help my attitude. Lord please lead and guide me with your scripture. Please be with everyone and help remind them and let them know they're not alone. Also, help me to get into my Bible, lead me to certain passages and to take joy in everything, good or bad. Thank you for everyone who has been a good influence on me and bless them and let them know I love them..... let people I influence see Christ in me and that I'm not perfect I just strive to be like Christ. Forgive me for everything I've done today. Thank you, I love you, also like Solomon "fear God and obey his commandments," your humble servant.

1/11/07 - Dear Lord, thank you so much for tonight. I needed that so much I feel so bad Lord I need you so much and I don't tell you often enough. That was amazing Lord, please help me to love you and be on fire for you Lord. Please help me to want your will more than anything, that's all that matters Lord. Lord I can't wait till one day in heaven when I will be able to sit with you on your throne. I'm so amazed that you made everyone and everything and yet that you want to be with me and you will do everything in your power or for anyone for them to know, love and want you. Lord I love you so much I can't say it enough, don't ever let me forget this night. Get me on fire, help me to live like this forever. Let me be a good witness and influence Lord. Help people to know the difference in me Lord. Thank you for everyone in my life that I have good Christian friends and that I am a Christian; I don't know what I'd be without you.......Lord please be with me and Janelle and just speak through us. Lord I know I can change our church and youth group from lukewarm to on fire; it's a big job but I can do it with you. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.".........Lord help me to make a difference......I love the saying how you carry us thru the hard times, you are my strength, my power, rock .....also, that you carry us up on Eagles wings Lord, how majestic is that. Lord please use me as I am here on earth. Also, help me to use what I've learned and give me the right heart and let your will be my will. Do whatever you want with me. I love you, I can't even fathom all that you've done for me and all that you will do for me. Thank you I can't say it enough. Love you. Goodnight Father, Prince of Peace, Omega, Majestic One....Love you. Keep me in your Word, lead me through the narrow path, help me not to stray.

1/13/07 - Lord just please use me as you see fit. Lord we want to see a transformation in our town Lord that only you can make. Help us to be on fire, not to let anything keep us from doing your word. Please help us unite with other churches, other denominations to unite because we all have a common goal. We all have a common belief and purpose.

2/17/07 - Just please bring me back on track, break me down till I stay on track and you use me for your purposes. Lord, I'm just the clay, I'm here to worship, praise, serve and witness about you Lord. Just please help this change our youth group to a youth ministry. Lord help me to stand up and be a leader. Notes from her Blume trip - Look in the right place look to Christ. God is our rock, come with the right heart and attitude....we will always have struggles but we at least have a purpose. Eternal life=abiding communion with God. We're God's instruments, how we are, how he made us......Love is undivided loyalty, faithfulness, obedience. Cherish God more than anything. God is incomprehensible, infinite, immortal, transcendent, supreme divinity, self-existent, self-sufficient, sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, holy, morally perfect, personal, triune, I Am That I Am, perfect, not bound, all powerful, not conquered.

11/28/07 - Stand up for God, stand up for others. Live for God. (Speaking on book of Hebrews she says) it was worth it to them to not give up even during the hard times, burning's not even hard for us like it was for them, why not? Witness, spread God's Word.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Considering the Cost of Leeks

We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (Num 11:5)

Ahhh…the comforts of slavery; what an inspiring thought. I have this picture of the Israelites demanding Moses take them back through the desert, “re-part” the Red Sea, pass through the waters again (all the while ignoring broken chariots, and horse and Egyptian warrior remains), slogging back to the other side, and running back to Rameses banging on the city gates yelling, “please abuse us again! Take our daughters for your concubines, just please allow us to sup on those wonderful leeks, onions, and garlic. Our breath has been way too fresh of late and our bodies seem under worked!”

It’s almost like some weird Michael Jackson video (to the tune of Beat it!) “Just beat us then feed us! Please come outside and defeat us! We came back and we promise not to fight; it doesn’t matter if we’re wrong or right just beat us, beat us, beat us… then feed us, feed us, feed us!”

I’m reminded of the Guinness Beer cartoon commercials, “Brilliant!”

The modern Christian sojourn has some similarities. I have met so many people in journey that are just wearied by, well the journey. They are tired of walking; they want a ride. They are tired of manna because of their pride. They are just plain tired and are willing to go back into bondage with the devil they knew, than press on to fight the ones they don’t. Jericho lies ahead and they’re not sure they have enough fight left in them to scale those walls. They only see the walls, but not Gods plans to bring them down.

Spiritual exhaustion is brought on by many things: An extended battle with something like an addiction or illness, personal loss of a loved one or job, unrighteous authority, emotional stress, physical pain, or any number of other issues. These brothers and sisters need someone that will come along side them in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to help comfort, heal, and restore. They also need someone to remind them of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, and that manna for a season is still God’s perfect provision.

My wife Alicesun is a remarkable chef. She is truly gifted with an incredible palate and ingenious insightful ingredient incorporation. Last night she decided to try a new fish recipe out on us. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best dish she’s ever served up. At first taste, she spit it out, announced there was cereal in the cabinet and retired to the comforts of the master suite. I, on the other hand, gave thanks and wolfed it down like a crazed grizzly scarfing a salmon. I ate Katie’s portion as well. Whitney muscled hers down like a vulture over road-kill, and Caleb’s portion went to her highness Phoebe. The dish was bland so it just needed some more salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of Tabasco, and Voila! - God’s perfect provision.

Manna seemed to have this same bland effect on the Israelites. Depending on the method of preparation, the manna had the sweetness of honey (Ex 16:31), or the savory flavor of olive oil (Num 11:8). What beautiful pictures the Father gives us in His manna. His children still had to gather it first, and then do something with it to prepare it for consumption. This was not a holy welfare program, more like the
WPA. It sustained an entire generation of God’s children, meeting the needs of 600,000 men plus the women and children with them. Still the discipline of the daily bread can descend into mundane morsels and we end up crying out for a meatier mission. In our frustration we lose sight of His goodness and reach back spitefully to sin instead of reaching out to our savior. Then end result may be a sinus infection of quail. To this day I’m afraid to eat it.

"Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month-- until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it-- because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" (Num 11:18-20)

So the price for wishing for leeks is even pretty high. The good news is Gilgal is on the map – which translated means “wheel” and also “heaven.” That is where the Lord blessed those who continued to rock in obedience and were ready to roll with His plan and purpose in their lives. They had run the race marked before them to that point and now were facing Jericho. God gave them a taste of the promised-land by removing the manna and letting them taste of the produce of Canaan.

The cry for leeks was now gone and the shouts of triumph yet to come. The father will always produce a harvest in your time of need as you continue to journey with Him. Leeks in Egypt will cost you everything, including your inheritance. So if you just get to where you can’t stomach something on the table, grab a bowl of cereal, give thanks and retire to the Master’s Suite. I bet He’ll set you up with some Quail to remind you of the goodness of His grace and that we live by every word that proceeds from His mouth.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Jesus the Pastoral Poopie Prankster – Part 1

Mark 9:35-37 (NIV) Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

The Lord is still teaching me patience through the helpless and innocent. I find so many similarities in animal husbandry and being a father. “Husband” is an interesting term to use for veterinarians. In many ways dogs and young children have a lot of the same challenges as they can be: ignorant, naive, needy, demanding, stinky, and often times just completely helpless. I continue to learn several life-lessons from both child and creature.

We have a Peek-a-poo (Pekinese/Poodle mix) named Phoebe. You’re about to learn a whole new meaning to the name of the breed. She is a Diva Dog to the max. She was the runt of her litter and has been pampered from the moment we got her. She’s normally well-behaved and has been house-broke since she was a very young puppy. Today she is 12 going on 84. Her one flaw (and there is always at least one) is she has a very fragile temperament. Like me, she’s not a big fan of “change.”

Last week we had invited a couple of families over to our house for a small birthday celebration for my wife Ally. Both families are blessed with some spirited young lads. When you add my son to the mix, we had six young boys ages 2 to 14 doing what boys do best – being boys. Let’s just say the activity and noise level in the house rose to a dull roar at times. Phoebe does not do well with that sort of shift of the tectonic plates in her otherwise tranquil world; she becomes a b!tch in every sense of the word. She gets snappy toward kids trying to pet her and becomes an emotional train wreck from the encroachment on her schedule of serenity. The consequence of her delicate demeanor manifested the next day.

I arrived home from church and lunch about 2:30 in the afternoon. My oldest daughter Whitney was at work, and Ally and the other two kiddos were at a youth function, so I had the couch, carrot cake, and remote all to myself. Can life be any better? I called out to Phoebe and she came running downstairs – clue #1 something was amiss. She is typically too lazy to go up stairs and usually opts for the couch herself. I let her outside to do her thing and she gave up a half-hearted trickle and sprinted back in, but straight to her doggie bed. Clue #2 something was amiss.

For the next 4 hours I vegged in front of the TV traveling in and out of slumber whilst the food network offered up subconscious suggestions of scrumptious sleep patterns. Whitney arrived home from work a little before 8 to witness my comatose state of mind and full-blown self-indulgent day of rest. We chatted a while and watched the last part of God’s favorite TV show Extreme Home Makeover. She asked what was up with Phoebe who was laying in her bed with her back to us staring at the wall. Come to think of it, she hadn’t moved from that spot since her bathroom break. Clue #3 yet I am still “clueless.”

It wasn’t long before everyone else arrived home. Within minutes my other daughter Katie stumbled on the big surprise with the loud proclamation, pausing between each word for dramatic effect…“OH…MY…GOSH! Phoebe crapped everywhere!” To which I responded “Shoot!” sort of. Yep, there were “tootsie rolls” and “butt fudge” all over the front living room. “You STUPID DOG! What is the MATTER WITH YOU?!!!” I screamed in exasperation. Day of rest is now a distant memory. Like a Mitsubishi sports car my BP rocketed from zero to 210/120 in 4 seconds as I went from tranquility to tumultuous testing in nothing flat. How could I have not figured out what she had done?!!! In my defense, there was no odor de toilet to bring it home for me.

Here’s the rub, pardon the pun; apparently she didn’t get the, well there’s just no delicate way to put it, “clean break,” so she did the (Oh NO SHE DIDN’T?!! OH YES SHE DID!) “butt-scoot” all the way across the room - cream carpet with stripes of brown thrown down. Here’s the other rub; 70% of our downstairs floor space is concrete. So I picked her up, took her back to the scene of the crime, put her face close to (but not in) the pooh, and screamed “NO!” I took her back to her doggie bed, put her in it and yelled, “If you’re gonna BLEEP in the house, at least have the decency to BLEEP on the concrete!!!” It was another one of those Clark Griswold Jelly-of-the-month-club moments.
Cesar Millan I am not. Saint subject to display my sin I am.

She responded to my oh-so-effective shepherding skills by stealthily repeating her efforts the very next morning on the very same carpet that Katie and I had spent the previous evening cleaning. Straight to jail she went. This time the “butt-scoot” was ineffective as I noticed she was still sporting an “anus adornment.” I confined her to her kennel for the day and announced to all that I would not be cleaning her or her crap up anymore, and she would remain confined until such time as someone rose to the challenge. I was done with dung and if it’s solitude she wanted solitary she’d get! As I stuffed her in her kennel, she could only offer back that “forgive me Father for I have sinned” look. Well too bad for her, grace had already left the building.

Except for short excursions outside for food and potty breaks, she stayed in her kennel all day Monday. Every time someone moved she whimpered. I left her in there when we went to bed and she whined loudly through the night until about 2:00 a.m. when I just couldn’t take it anymore. Indeed, my mercy manifested and I moved her kennel outside to the back porch and made her stay out there. My last thought before sweet slumber finally arrived was of someone’s escaped pet boa constrictor serendipitously slithering across my back patio for a midnight snack.

The next morning during my prayer time the Lord took me to this passage - John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. That scripture stuck with me and haunted me all day while I was at work, yet I was determined to teach my kids the discipline of caring for their pet (and CARpet). I remember the Lord asking “How’s that working out for you?” (He speaks to me using my lingo) It was about this time when I discovered my worship Pastor Barry had posted a song on our worship team website - “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”. It also had the trailer from The Passion of the Christ which included the scene of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. Thanks Bro.

Still battling the God gnaw that evening, I sat restlessly through American Idol. When it was over I asked our little healthcare professional Whitney if she had any rubber gloves. Not three days prior she had a mound of them, but somehow she’s now fresh out. How does THAT happen?! I’ll tell you how – my friend Jesus the Pastoral Poopie Prankster – that’s how!!!! He walks around with His “Holier-than-Thou-I’m-going-to-teach-you-a-lesson-from-the-Son-of-the-Living-God” agenda. Wait a minute, He does walk on water. I guess until I can surf the seas without skis I’ll listen to whatever “message” He’s trying to convey. It’s almost entertaining what methods of influence He’s willing to use.

So with no gloves and a pair of old scissors, and with my trusted assistant (see “observer”) Whitney at the ready, I stepped out to the back porch ready to dine at the buffet of humility, and humble myself under the mighty hiney of Phoebe the Peek-a-POOH-Pooh dog. As I steady myself to extract the nugget of nuisance still dangling from the poop path as an ornament precariously strung on a Christmas tree, I somehow sense this won’t be my last “holiday.”

With a firm grip on her tail and a swift snip or two, all vestiges of canine compost were eliminated. A sweeping broom stroke of the porch and the doggie dooh was broadcast to the dormant southern bermuda sod as fertilizer soon decaying into the nutrients of an organic symphony of sage-like wisdom. The shepherd had tended his sheep as he should have from the start. Doing the right thing in the “end” was a lot less difficult than the refusal to submit and serve.

The frustration of caring for a pet reminds me that we will be frustrated with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead of cursing the one who drops a deuce on the floor, maybe we just give them some grace and help them clean up their mess. That might even include changing a diaper or two. I’m grateful to all of those who have changed mine. I think I understand why Jesus loved Jacob (the trickster) so much. It also may explain why my hip hurts.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Living In a Snowglobe

Rom 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Earlier this past January there was a sermon at our church on the "tools of transformation." As the teaching started, I was really encouraged because Romans 12:1-2 is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture. It wasn’t his text, but I knew it applied. It has become part of my daily prayer and spiritual confession. As I extol the name of Jehovah M’Keddash – Jesus My Sanctifier I begin to call out His qualities in that role that I adore and need in my life. It goes something like this:

"I thank you Lord Jesus that you are my Sanctifier, the One who sets me apart for your good and perfect will. You are the Author and Perfector of my Faith the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. You Jesus are my Conception and my Reception, my perception that guards against deception. You are the Potter and I am your clay, mold me and make me and conform me into your image and likeness I pray. I present my body to you this day as a living sacrifice that I might be made holy, acceptable, and pleasing unto you for this is indeed my reasonable and spiritual act of worship. I purpose in my heart to no longer be conformed unto the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind by you."

Confessing those names and His nature brings me to a place of yielding. Not so much like a triangular traffic control device, but more like the muscles of a frail aging man beneath the force of an East German masseuse named Helga with a mustache and hairy armpits bursting out of mauve spandex, and biceps and quads the size and firmness of bowling balls. If you crawl on a table under those circumstances – you WILL submit and conform into what ever shape is kneaded – pardon pun.

Maybe that’s not the perfect picture of our Potter doing his thing on us whilst we squat on His Holy Sit-and-Spin, but it may provide an accurate appraisal of the sheer terror of the process once it get’s rolling. One of the comments from the teaching was that the Father is "more concerned about our conformity than comfort." So it is, we won’t know peace without first knowing pressure.

Truly the offering up of my body as a living sacrifice is my spiritual act of worship. Placing myself in His hands to conform me into His image is a difficult thing for me. In that prayer I ask Him to remove the excess clay and wash me with the water of His Word to make me pliable so He can fill in the gaps and cracks.

I get joy from knowing His fingerprints are on me. I’m renewed by His touch and massaging. My mind is renewed by His careful caress, perfect pressure, and wise counsel. I am dizzied by His love. I can, at least for a moment, sense, test, and approve His good, pleasing, and perfect will for me. In that moment of clarity while resting in the Secret Place, the value and significance of submission seems savory and sweet.

The aforementioned teaching listed the following as some of those "tools" of transformation: rejection, loneliness, injustice, unrighteous authority, betrayal, unfulfilled expectations, and change. When he mentioned "change" something in me said, "Uh oh," like when you get to the top of a rollercoaster and realize it’s a LOT higher than you had originally thought. Encouragement quickly transformed to anxiety.

Well, like that rollercoaster, the first 2 months of this year have been all about the angst of change. As the train heads into it’s screaming decent these are the winds of change that I’ve personally experienced thus far: task assignment change at work; I interviewed for another position within the company; my wife is in a career transition; I’m starting back to school to finish my degree; Our laptop computer died; I started a blog; I’ve been to 3 funerals in just over 6 weeks and still walking through personal loss with close friends; we’re adding up to 3 more percussionists to our worship team (on which I serve as a percussionist); and there are layoffs looming on the horizon at my workplace. That just accounts for a few (but not all), of the external changes. That's a lot of stuff. I so look forward to the rush and moderation of the ascent.

The "change" concept is even getting major play in this year’s presidential election. But unlike campaign slogans, when the Father comes in to clean His house, it’s more than rhetoric, He’s about the business of our transformation. I think it’s time for me to get serious about having my mind renewed. I’m tempted to continually crawl off the table and sprint for the comfort of a recliner and a remote, but apparently Brother Jesus has a different agenda - the TV in my bedroom just went out.

What the?! Son of a Jiminy Crimeny Christmas! Some of my best material comes from there! Hmmm. I wonder what that’s about. As I stand up on my tippy-toes and peak over the shoulder of the Savior, I see the top of a list titled Distractions:
1. Laptop
2. TV
I can’t quite make out #3 there.
No doubt it’s something equally significant that will cause me to rant like a lunatic, breakout in hives, and put my humanity on display – again.

When I originally signed up for this trip, I thought it was for the potluck dinners and the first, third, and fourth stanzas. Who knew He would take my prayer seriously and answer it so cleverly by putting me in a snow globe and proceed to shake, shake, shake it like a Polaroid?

As I plink against the sides and tumble through His "sphere of influence" I can vaguely make out what looks to be the palms of His hands and a distant mischievous bearded grin (yes my Jesus has facial hair) as I cry out "Dude! What are you doing?!!!" Still, I know I’m safe there even in the blizzard of instability, because He changes not while He changes me. Helga, on the other hand, is a different story; she will put the hurt on you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Psalm 139 – Search Me. Know Me.

This post is special, personally speaking, as it was the catalyst for a song. The lyrics are at the end of this blog. My Worship Pastor, Barry Garrett, masterfully arranged the music and recorded the demo you will find to the right of the post. I hope the song touches you and is somehow a vehicle of connection and communion for you to meet with our Savior in an intimate way.

A special thank you to Barry. I love you bro. TM

Psalm 139 - Search Me. Know Me.

I’ve been reading and revisiting Psalms 139 of late. It is interesting to me that this particular psalm is a Davidic Psalm “for the Choir director.” Could we insert the term “worshipers” for the sake of application? I have been seeking personal revelation again about what is authentic Praise and Worship. The Holy Spirit has me in that place of searching for the REALITY of Him and what it means to be real with Him and with others in the context of the assembly in worship.

I’m not always sure what that looks like, but for me I default to the old song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” The words “…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” serve as a great reminder to focus on Him. However, I still desire to connect with the congregation, but I find myself struggling to do so because of the fear I will “perform” instead of worship. I tend to let my actions in worship speak for themselves and serve as an example, rather than making some sort of eye contact, or the employment of exhortation in word or deed. For me, it’s more about posture than pros when on the platform. Yet I sense I may be missing something by not engaging in a demonstrative way with the congregation, and that the Father wants to do something in me as I reach out.

In that Psalm, it says my Father knows every intimate detail about me including my thoughts and words even before they are spoken. Nothing is hidden from Him. There is no place in which I can hide from Him. David asks the question, “Where can I flee from your presence?” My first thought is why would anyone want to do that? Yet I know. All of us have had seasons of withdrawal when darkness invaded our souls. David declares that “surely the darkness will hide me” and then in his moment of surrender realizes that darkness is no match for God.

The Father knew us as seed and egg, and in love and adoration knit us together – wonderfully made. My praise is a response to that, as the psalmist says in v.14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” That amazes me and gives me pause. Selah.

He knew me from my mother’s womb and knows me today, yet the Psalmist still cries out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” I’m challenged that even my anxiety can be an offense to Him, and contrary to “the way everlasting.” Before I strike a beat or sing a word of praise, my thoughts and motives are known to Him, so again I pray, search me. I often search myself but my filters can get clogged with earth; mine, yours, ours, or others. He has no filter as He pours out His love. Verse 5 says, “you have laid your hand upon me.” He does this in a way that softens this clay and cleanses, and smoothes, and soothes.

When he sees me, it’s with hues of red – the red of His blood that flows and shows the way everlasting. I’m encouraged that when I approach His throne of grace, He is there; when I lay down at night, He is there; when I rise in the morning, He is there; when I retreat to planet self, He is there; when I stand naked and vulnerable in the secret place, He is there; when I am anxious He is there; When I lay my hand to the drum, He is there; when I press my lips to the harp, He is there; when I open my mouth, he knows what is coming out, and He is there to receive and redeem.

David sings of the precious thoughts of the Lord, and “how vast the sum of them.” I am also challenged by the revelation of this Psalm that the bigness of God cannot and will not compromise His intimacy with us. In fact, it is often our smallness that tempers our intimacy with Him; when HE is there, sometimes we are not.

Search my heart Oh God, and shine your light on the cobwebs of my soul. Where there is neglect bring restoration. Where there is earth, wash me with your Spirit. Where there is timidity, bring your power, your love, and your soundness. Where there is anxiety, bring your peace. Bring these things that I may stand in the assembly of your Praise and offer selflessly back to you all that you have given me, and encourage others to follow the way everlasting. You change not and that is amazing. You change me and that too is amazing.

Search Me
Tim Michael/Barry Garrett - 2/23/2007

Search me Lord and know my heart,
Let nothing there keep us apart.
You’re all I need
In troubled times or joyful days,
test me Lord Jesus and know my ways.
I want to be known by you.

When I feel alone and all out of place,
When I am afraid, I run to You.

Search me.
Know me.
Heal me.
Love me back to You – Jesus.

In your secret place
I will rest in your unending grace
I will rest in you…Jesus
I am resting.

I want to be known by You.
I want to be known by You.
You’re all I need.

Search me Lord and know my heart,
Let nothing there keep us apart – You’re all I need.